The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is in Ottawa today for the annual conference of the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO), in an effort to gather petition signatures from municipal leaders opposed to Ford’s private-only approach to cannabis retail sales.
Ford’s Progressive Conservatives announced last week that Ontario’s brick-and-mortar cannabis retail stores will be privately run, but municipalities will have the option to opt out of this model.
“Private-only cannabis sales will be a financial and public-health mess. And the rookie premier is pretty much telling community leaders that they’re the ones who will have to clean it up,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, who has been outspoken about the subject since rumours of the shift in the retail model started circulating at the end of July.
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Under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, the Ontario government had planned to open 40 Ontario Cannabis Stores (OCS) this year, and a total of 150 stores by 2020.
The OCS will still be responsible for wholesale distribution and online sales.
Thomas and the OPSEU have been questioned about the motives behind their support for publicly run cannabis stores, suggesting the union was only looking out for its own interests.
“We represent over 155,000 workers,” Thomas replied. “A few hundred workers won’t make or break OPSEU. But as a social justice union, we call for public policy that is in the best interests of all Ontarians. And putting cannabis sales in private, for-profit hands is bad policy, pure and simple.”
According to Thomas, “the rookie premier made a huge mistake when he refused to consult with anybody other than political insiders with a personal stake in the industry before deciding that cannabis will only be sold in profit-driven private storefronts.”
The provincial government is currently in a consultation with municipalities prior to drafting new legislation for legalized cannabis in Ontario.
Private retail stores are set to open by April 1, 2019.